04 January 2010

"She's comin' home this Christmas Day"

Being home for Christmas was literally a shot of lifeblood.  My trek home began with a mile long walk to the Metz train station, a 50 lb rolling suitcase, a carry on, and a cuckoo clock in tow. After a 6am train to Paris Gar de l'Est, I walked to Paris Gare de Nord, clattered down two flights of stairs, and boarded another train for Charles de Gaulle airport.  From there, a shuttle to my terminal. After a delayed flight out of Paris due to snow, I narrowly made my connecting flight from Dulles to Detroit, which ended up nearly being cancelled due to snow.  I literally sprinted to my gate after clearing customs.  I was panicked by the idea of missing any of my few precious days at home, and was so relieved have beat the winter blizzard that crippled Dulles airport just after my departure.  

Jim picked me up from the airport. I saw him before he saw me, glancing anxiously in every direction, a giant welcome home Christmas wreath in hand.  I nearly collapsed in his arms from exhaustion.  He lifted me up and spun me around, my bags dropping to the ground, not caring who gawked at our joyful reunion.  How I survived three months without him I don't know... and how I shutter to imagine the six yet to come.  

After stopping at a National Coney Island and gorging myself on a monstrous mushroom and swiss burger with fries (I missed ketchup with a fiery passion after living in the land of mayo for three months), Jim brought me home to my family, and it was so lovely to be home.  

We shared a box of gorgeous homemade cookies from my colleague Jean-Marie, who had enclosed a lovely card for my family about how grateful he was to the Americans for liberating France from the Nazi tyranny of WWII, and that as Frenchmen, he and his family would always be on America's side of democracy.  
This international display of solidarity moved my entire family, and was sweeter than any of the delicious heart shaped "petits gateaux" lovingly tucked inside a Burberry box.  So much for any stupid notion about the French hating us.

That night I didn't even make it up the stairs to my own bed.  I woke up on the living room couch, still in my clothes.  I battled jet-lag most of my time at home, and my jam-packed schedule and late nights out didn't help matters!  The couch was a frequent crash zone despite a welcoming electric blanket up just one flight of stairs.

My two weeks at home were a flurry of activity. Highlights (which frequently involved eating) include:
A fondue and crêpe party with my girlfriends.

Celebrating my 26th birthday with my parents, my sister and Jim.

Christmas Eve jam session with my mom's side.

Christmas morning with the family

My Mom's face upon receiving the aforementioned 
cuckoo clock from Germany.

Picture-perfect Christmas Day at Uncle Bill and Aunt Cindy's

An annual tradition: 
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert with my Dad!

New Years toasts with my girls...

...and a New Year's kiss from my boy!

Seeing the faces of friends old and new: Fellow Scarab Club members (pictured) and also Jim's family, Haley, Genna, Nicole, Amanda, baby Cleora, Cathy, everyone from church, and my former work colleagues!

Saying goodbye from the security line at the 
airport was much harder this time around.

The two weeks flew by, leading to a familiar tearful goodbye at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.  I won't see Jim until April, and my family until July.  After clearing security, I could still see a glimpse of Jim, and kept blowing kisses and waving goodbye to him until an annoyed security officer sternly waved me away.  I trudged toward my gate, only to experience a turbulent flight to Frankfurt that ended up being diverted to Cologne for three hours before taking back off for Frankfurt.  I narrowly caught my train back to France, arriving close to midnight.  

"JAMIEEEEEE!" I was ambushed by an overjoyed Nicolas, who tackled me from a hiding place in the dark.  It was lovely to be so warmly received by him and Hélène... I missed them very much and am so happy to have their friendship ...but I'll never be as comfortable here as I would be at home.  

As I lay awake in bed, I wondered if it would have been easier to have not come home at all.  I had finally grown accustomed to life in France, not that I didn't miss people greatly.  Now, it's like I have to begin the process anew.  I reflected on everything I didn't get to do on my two weeks in the States, regretting things I wish would have gone differently.  I don't regret going home for a moment, I don't know how I would have survived the holidays otherwise.  I looked out my window, searching for the illuminated Cathedral, but her light was shrouded by fog and snow.  I realized that the bulk of this life in France is still ahead of me, and tears streamed down my cheeks.  I kept repeating to myself like a mantra "This is my dream, this is my dream."  


  1. Jamie, I don't quite know what to write, partially because this entry is exactly the same as the one I've been composing in my brain for the past few days, from the travel horrors to the sad goodbyes. I also went home for Christmas and it was a magical 13 days. My rentrée was harder than I could have imagined it to be and it's hard to be here and not wish to be home again. I've had the same thoughts- I know I needed to go home and couldn't have made it through the holidays without my family and my friends back home and my boyfriend but jeez, this is harder than I could have ever imagined it would be. Anyways, sorry to write a novel for a comment, but I guess I just wanted to say "you're not alone" and thanks for writing something that struck such a deep chord for me. Good luck with the transition; we'll get through this and be all the stronger and braver and more cultured for it!

  2. Hi Jamie,

    I loved this post (and the pictures of the bald-headed guy weren't bad either!!). It was wonderful seeing you again, and so hard to say goodbye again. Yes, a couple things might have gone a little different, but that's the deal with family. Take care sweets, and stay safe.



  3. This entry was incredibly sweet, but I had to stop reading about halfway through because I wasn't able to go home for Christmas and have been feeling really homesick the past few days! And that card from your colleague sounds incredibly touching. :)


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